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Forest owners support Sambar decision

1 May 2007

The decision of conservation minister Chris Carter to relax controls on the hunting of Sambar deer in the southern North Island has been endorsed by forest owners.

NZ Forest Owners Association chief executive David Rhodes says forest owners will now be able to control the deer, which are found mainly on private land, throughout the year.

"The minister has made the right decision for both economic and environmental reasons."

Mr Rhodes says land owners have been prevented from controlling Sambar within a gazetted zone which includes much of the southern North Island west coast from Waverley to Otaki.

Regulations restricted hunting in the zone to a six weekend season, with one animal per hunter and no spotlighting. Even land owners and their staff had to comply.

With the scales weighted in their favour, Sambar numbers exploded.

Adult animals, the size of horses, have been causing severe damage to trees through bark-stripping and the destruction of newly planted woodlots, shelter belts and forests.

"Losses in affected pine forests have been calculated at $5000-$7000/ha, or 20-30% of the value of the trees at harvest. Total damage to standing forests exceeds $20 million," Farm Forestry Association spokesperson Denis Hocking says.

"The worst damage to pines is in newly-pruned blocks where deer can easily reach the bare stem of the tree. Cypress species, which never get a hard bark, are vulnerable throughout their life-cycle."

Mr Hocking says the herd’s continuing survival is not at risk, nor are they endangered in their country of origin, India.

Sambar are very secretive, making them hard to hunt. Also they have now spread along the coast and inland up river valleys, in some cases onto properties where land owners are quite happy to play host to wild deer.

Mr Rhodes says commercial forest owners are willing to work with deer stalkers to ensure that the increased hunting opportunities resulting from the minister’s decision are fairly allocated.

"Sambar will now be treated like any other deer species. Before hunting them on private land, you must first get the land owner’s permission."

For more information, please contact David Rhodes, Tel 0274 955 525;or Denis Hocking, Tel 021 051 4479 or 06 322 1254